Suunto Core, 1 Year Thoughts…

P1030033In December of 2012, I bit the bullet and picked up a new Suunto Core watch, which I found discounted on eBay, so I jumped on it. These watches retail for $300, and even with a discount (I paid $240 total), it was still not an inexpensive purchase (at least in my opinion). Of course, once it showed up at my house, I did an unboxing video on it, which has been one of my most watched videos… Since doing this initial video, I have had a number of emails and comments about this watch, so I figured that now, after my first year, would be a good time to do a follow-up on it…

Actually though, what has really prompted me to go ahead and work on this article is because it is now time for me to change the battery in the watch. During my Thanksgiving hike, the low battery indicator popped up on the screen, and since then I have been trying to wait it out to see if the watch will just die. So far, it has not, however, on that hike, I did notice that the buttons/functions were starting to act crazy. I feel like this was due to the low battery, and the fact that the temperatures were around freezing. I have another hike coming up very soon, so I figured I had better just go ahead and change the battery.

On the topic of batteries though, the listed anticipated life expectancy of a battery in the Suunto Core is around 1 year. For me, this has proven true… maybe even a little over, but as I said, it started acting funky on me once the low battery indicator came on…

A few months after purchasing the watch, I picked up a “replacement battery kit which at the time of purchase was labeled for use with the Core, and the Vector. The kit included a CR2032  battery, another back cover with an O-ring, and another piece that looks like a contact point for the battery. However, once it showed up, the package was labeled for use with a Moquito watch, and sure enough, the only useable parts for the Core in the kit was the battery… (so, if anyone has a Moquito watch, let me know and I can drop these spare parts in the mail for ya!)

P1030047Anyway, over the last year, this has been my everyday wear watch. There have been a very few number of days in which I did not wear it, and that was because sometimes I just wake up later than normal, and am in more of a hurry than usual and just forget it… like my phone sometimes. To be fair though, I don’t wear it while actually at work (I work in surgery, so no watches allowed), although, I do wear it at all other times.

I have subjected this watch to all the normal abuse that a watch will generally take (at least once the “newness” wore off). I have banged it against door facings, walls, metal tables, rocks, trees, etc… I have worn it while washing dishes, washing my hands, swimming, and in the rain while hiking. I have worn the watch in temperatures from 20 F (or a little less) to just over 100 F!  In short, this watch has now been exposed to all the conditions that I will generally wear it in, and it is doing fine, for the most part…

The only time that I have found that it does not function as expected (other than when the battery is about dead, obviously) is in cold conditions. This watch will measure a temperature reading, however, since I don’t want to know the temperature of my arm, at night I will take the watch off and lay it beside me (while out backpacking). This way I know where the watch is, and it will display the actual, ambient temperature. However, what I have found is that once the temps drop to around freezing, the back light on the watch will stop working, and will not work again until I warm the watch up… This is disappointing to me, especially for such an expensive watch. (I must say that I never experienced this issue with the less expensive High Gear Axio Max I had before the Core.)

Other than this, everything that I bought this watch for has worked as well as expected, and I have been happy with it.

Wearing my Suunto Core near Thousand Acre Meadows in the Olympic National Park

One of my favorite features on the Core is that I can lock the screen. Sometimes while hiking, the buttons will accidentally get pushed, and on my other watch when this happened, when I looked at my screen, it would be on a different screen than what I left it on. So I would have to stop, then cycle through all the screens until I got back to the one I wanted. Not with the Core though. When hiking, I will set the screen to the Alto reading screen, which displays my altitude and the time, and then I lock it. Then, every time I look at the watch from there on out, it tells me what I want to know, without a doubt!

Another feature that I like about the Core is that I can also lock the watch to read pressure changes as either altimeter readings, or barometric pressure readings, but not both. With my other watch, I would get to camp and see that my altimeter was correct, however, as morning came along, I would wake up and find my elevation had changed. What happened is that as the air pressure continued to change, the watch would read it as a change in elevation. With the Core though, I can set the profile to altimeter, and unless there is a rapid change in air pressure, the reading will stay the same. So, when I get to camp and go to sleep at 5,000 feet, despite the air pressure changes throughout the night, when I wake up in the morning, my watch will still display 5,000 feet. Then, once I start hiking, those numbers will change.

These are the two features that really drew me to this watch, as well as the quality that is (usually) associated with Suunto, although, considering the back light does stop working in cold temps, that is a bit of a let down. But, I cannot do anything about this fact, and since everything else about the watch seems to work as well as I had hoped, (at this point)I plan to keep it until it just doesn’t work anymore.

So, to run it down, here are some of the pro’s & cons, as far as I am concerned:


  • Ability to lock the screen
  • Ability to lock the reading for either the altitude, or the barometer
  • Reliable (so far)
  • Consistent readings (although, it does help to remember to set it before starting)
  • Easy to read display
  • Durable so far
  • Tough crystal
  • Easy to navigate
  • Large, easy to find/use buttons


  • Backlight stops working in cold temperatures
  • Battery life is only about a year (at least the batteries are inexpensive though!)
  • Black paint is wearing off the top of the bezel
  • The features function incorrectly in cold temps with a low battery

So, I hope this helps to answer some of the questions that some may have about this watch. If anyone has any more questions, feel free to post them below and I will do my best to answer them.


Disclaimer: I paid for this watch with my own money, although, it was at a discounted price which I found on eBay. I am not affiliated with Suunto, and have no obligation to write about this watch. The statement’s within this article are of my own opinion, after having used the watch over the last year.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
This entry was posted in Gear Reviews, Suunto, Watch and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Suunto Core, 1 Year Thoughts…

  1. Robert Gegorek says:

    Thanks for the info, I have been considering purchasing the watch. I always enjoy reading your blogs!

    • Stick says:

      No problem Robert, and glad to hear that you enjoy my blog! If you get the watch, I hope you enjoy it. As well, if you don’t mind, after you use it for a while, stop back by and let us know how it is doing for you…


  2. I got myself a Core this past year on LeftLane Sports for a REALLY good price. It’s not the all Black model…just the regular one with a red ring on the face. I haven’t had a chance to try it outside yet, but I do wear it every day and find it to be a great watch. I like the sunrise/sunset feature too, especially in winter when daylight is harder to come by.

    • Stick says:

      Yeah, I know the ones you are talking about. I remember seeing the Cores with the red bezel and the yellow bezel popping up on Steep & Cheap pretty often for about $160 IIRC…Personally though, I really wanted the all black one, and even though a few folks told me I wouldn’t like it because it is hard to read the display… well, I really like it. Even sitting here in a rather dark room, I can still read it well enough without straining…

      Anyway, after you have used it for a while, specifically in the cold weather, if you don’t mind, stop back by and share your findings with it!

      Thanks for stopping by.


  3. jleephoto says:

    I’m a long time Suunto ABC watch owner and I have a love/hate relationship with my Core. First I traded my all black negative display in immediately for the “regular black” model as I found the negative screen difficult to read in bright light. I’ve worn mine for months at a time in hazardous environments. Having the battery die at an inopportune time can be a real liability so I need to replace before any long 2-3 month trip to be assured of not needing a change in the field.
    I’ve already replaced the standard strap on mine at high cost and wish I could put my preferred Zulu/Nato one piece nylon straps on this for comfort and security but that would require a $50 sacrificial strap to get the lugs, and even then, since the lugs are hinged, it won’t work comfortably on one piece web straps.
    Additionally, I find I am often accidentally changing screen modes by hitting the “mode” button when bending my wrist sharply. This just doesn’t happen on my Casio Protek or Pathfinders. Yes, it has a lock-out but invariably, when I lock it on a certain screen in daily operations, I find myself needing to un-lock it to access another screen.
    Used within the parameters you mentioned ie: as primarily an altimeter on hikes, the Core works well. However, as a daily user, I much prefer solar/atomic options where I don’t have to be concerned about changing a battery in the field. It’s also good to know that the atomic watches are accurate to the second all the time to use as a reference for setting other watches.
    There’s no perfect watch. If your needs are primarily as an altimeter or a barometer and time keeping is secondary, using this watch as you described is a good solution. But I’d highly suggest folks consider the other options for all around tools.

    • Stick says:


      Wow! Some awesome feedback. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

      As for the screen, I gotta admit, I have been happy with mine and have not found reading the display to be an issue whether in bright light (on the trail) or in dim light. At least, not that I have noticed. Although, I have heard a number of folks express their unhappiness with the ability to read the display in various situations.

      As for the battery life, I agree with you about being out for months at a time. I am only out for a few days at a time, so this one has suited me fine. I was also surprised that a low battery indicator came on. I really didn’t expect that (if I read about it initially, I must have forgot about it…), but I think it is a plus, as opposed to the watch just dying. As I mentioned, the low battery indicator came on about 5 weeks ago on mine, and is still going, although, I will admit, in the cold weather, the functions were all crazy. Buttons were doing things that they were not supposed to be doing, and of course, in the cold, the light didn’t work. But, so long as I had an extra battery available, I feel like that would help keeping track of when to change it so one doesn’t find them self with a watch with a dead battery.

      Two things you pointed out that I really wish were on this watch though is the atomic clock, and the solar charger. For this reason, I almost went with a Pathfinder when I got this one…

      Anyway, thanks for pointing out your experience. This is great feedback, and hopefully will add to my thoughts, and overall give others more to think about to make their decision…


  4. Rudy says:

    Use a fine tip black sharpie to fill in the paint chips. For the best results just fill in the chip and not the surrounding paint.

    • Stick says:


      I have done that in the past, but it doesn’t seem to last long, once it gets wet it soon rubs off… I just don’t worry about it now though… The newness has worn off! 🙂


  5. Andrew L says:

    Hi Stick – thanks for the review. I own a Core, and one of the features that appealed to me was the Bearing function in the compass mode. What has been your experience with this function (if at all)? Do you find it to be accurate?

    I have tested it the way the manual describes in a ‘real life situation’: stand on one side of a valley and lock the bearing on an object on the other side of the valley. Then descend into the valley and use the bearing function to help you get to the object on the other side.

    When I did this, I found that the bearing quickly got off track as I descended into the valley. By the time I reached the bottom it was pointing ~45 degrees off-target and this would fluctuate even more when I would move.

    I was wondering if you or any of your readers had any experience with this function. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong but if you have any tips/recommendations for making this more accurate it would be great to hear it.


    • Stick says:


      Unfortunately, I have not used the compass, or anything associated with it on the watch… To be completely honest, I need to learn my map & compass skills because I don’t really have them now… However, with this watch, so far the only thing I really use is the altimeter and the basic functions. For this, it has served me well so far (except for when the light stops working… it has a new battery in it now though, so I will see if that will make a difference on it now…)

      Maybe someone else that is reading does have some time with this aspect of the watch though and can chime in…


  6. Martin Rye says:

    Got mine in July so early days to master it. Great feedback and as always helpful Stick.

  7. Jim says:

    Do you use the logbook function? If so how long can the log record? All the manual says is that the watch will display available recording time depending on which interval you select. I’m looking to use the watch for extended expeditions and am curious what that maximum recording time is with the 60sec interval selected.

    • Stick says:


      At 60 second intervals, the watch will log 33 hours per log. And I believe that the watch will store up to 12 logs… But, I have never used it, so not sure how it actually works… this is just what I come up with when going through the settings on the watch…

      Hope this helps some,


  8. David says:

    Thanks for all this information on this watch. I just got mine and am excited to use it, thanks for the feedback!

  9. jleephoto says:

    Just wanted to update I had a similar cold weather problem with mine the other night. Had it hanging from the ridgeline of my hammock in 20 degree temps and when I tried to cycle through the screens it went all wonky on me. This with a new battery. I put it on and let it warm up and it came back to life. So, usability in sub-freezing temps may be limited.

    • Stick says:


      Thanks for the feedback… that is a bummer that such an expensive watch acts this way in conditions that it is expected to be used in…


  10. DW says:

    I’ve had a core for several years now. I’m a Forester and work in the woods everyday. The watch has been great in all features except the compass. Every time I need to use it the calibration is off. I have to turn the watch off re set all the basic info to recalibrate and then it only last a while. I just can’t depend on the compass. I made a band with paracord that is far superior to the original rubber. The core lugs are great for paracord application.

  11. Kiko says:

    The watch band lasted only for 3 months then it broke….

  12. Kris says:

    I have recently purchased the above watch but I have lost the battery cover dose anyone now where I can get a replacement

  13. Peter B says:

    Thanks for the great review. One of these watches is on offer locally and I am considering purchasing it.

    Your only real reservation seems to be the loss of backlight at low temperature issue. This is also a concern for me, as I often take my watch off at night when on camping trips so I can see the true ambient temperature first thing the next morning, or occasionally during the night. Just wondering, does the backlight fail to work only when the low battery icon is displayed? It is possible Suunto have designed the watch to preserve the remaining battery life in order to maintain essential watch functions when the battery is nearing end of life. To do this they may have disabled the back light when the watch battery is near fully discharged. If this is the case it may also explain why the backlight appears to work when wearing the watch, but will not work when the watch is cold. The output voltage for most batteries will fall at lower temperatures, this is especially true of batteries that are nearing end of their life. Wearing the watch will heat the watch up, thus increasing the battery output voltage to a point where the watch voltage check circuitry is satisfied there is sufficient power available to operate the back light again. Also, as a nearly discharged battery under load (and possibly cold) is unlikely to provide sufficient power to properly operate the watch. This may explain the erratic button function behaviour you mention.

    What’s your view on the above please?

    Cheers, Pete

    • Stick says:


      Sorry for the delay in response. To address your question, no, the backlight failed regardless of the low battery light icon being on or off. The backlight would fail with a new battery, or an old battery. And when it would, it would not be a simple on or off, but it would flicker out. I believe that this is just how this type of display reacts in low temperatures. If I keep it slightly warm, then it will work as it should, as in keeping it on my wrist, but then, what is the point of using the temperature reading feature as it is not displaying the ambient temperature, but instead, a combination the ambient temperature and the heat coming from my wrist. Hope this helps!


  14. Pete says:

    Hi Stick,

    Thanks for your response. I recently purchased a Casio Protrek 300CM-4D solar powered watch as I decided I didn’t want to change batteries. So far I am really happy with it. I can’t directly compare it to the Core watch as I don’t own one, but it seems to be very accurate and can be user calibrated if not. I got a really good deal after finding it on special offer here in NZ for $249. One thing it doesn’t have is the altitude lock feature you mention. The displayed altitude changes with barometric pressure variations overnight. Though this is easy to adjust next morning, the lock feature would be a good thing to have.

    Thanks again for your great review.


    • Stick says:

      Thanks for stopping by Pete. And those ProTrek watches were the other watches I was looking at when I went with the Core. Both great watches in their own right!


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